Back-to-school in the coming academic year may be the first time a kindergarten, first, or second-grade student has ever entered a school building. The pandemic, school closures, and remote learning interrupted many young children’s traditional experience of a first day at school.
That’s why Fall 2021 is so important in terms of setting all children on a positive path with warm and welcoming feelings about beginning their school-based adventure in learning. All parents, grandparents, siblings, caregivers, childcare providers, preschool teachers, school librarians, classroom teachers, and school administrators have a role to play. We can communicate the fun and friendship children will find when they join the community of school.
Loco parentis literally means “in the place of a parent.” As educators, we have the responsibility to care for children and treat them as our own. Turnaround for Children is an organization that helps educators understand the brain science behind the important connections we make through building relationships. From their website: “Cultivate Developmental Relationships among teachers, students, leaders, and families, because these relationships are a prerequisite for managing student stress and igniting learning” (https://turnaroundusa.org/).
School librarians who serve the entire school community through the largest classroom in our schools with the greatest number of resources are perfectly positioned to be relationship-building leaders. We create welcoming, safe spaces in our libraries and online for ALL students, educators, and families. We must be intentionally open, positive, and consistent in the way we interact with all the members of our learning communities.
“The sense of safety and belonging that relationships provide is truly the foundation for learning, because they create the context that readies the brain to learn” (Stafford-Brizard 2021, 8).
Social and Emotional Learning
According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), “social and emotional learning (SEL) is an integral part of education and human development. SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions” (https://casel.org/what-is-sel/).
Educators are instrumental in creating a caring, respectful learning environment in their classrooms and library spaces where students’ SEL can grow. One of the key elements of CASEL’s Theory of Action is: “Strengthen adult SEL competencies and capacity by cultivating a trusting community that enhances adults’ professional, social, emotional, and cultural competencies and their capacity to promote SEL for students.”
This presents an opportunity for principal-school librarian partnerships to co-create a positive and effective culture of trust, caring, and safety among faculty so they will carry those feelings and behaviors forward when working with students.
“These teachers remember the passions that led them to become academics, and they do not want to lose the primal energy of their vocation. They affirm their deep caring for the lives of their students, and they do not want to disconnect from the young. They understand the identify and integrity they have invested in teaching, and they reinvest, even if it pays no institutional interest or dividends” (Palmer 1998, 170-171).
Ready and Waiting for You
This spring, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers is bringing back my book Ready and Waiting for You (2013). The book’s bold and vibrant child-friendly illustrations by Catherine Stock and its design (my idea) with opening gatefold doors reinforce the repeating phrase: “We’re ready and waiting for you.”
I recorded a pitch for why this book is perfectly timed for Fall 2021. It is posted on the Eerdmans Books for Young Readers’ Facebook page and their YouTube channel.
Eerdmans Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=828740571329180
Video Recording on YouTube: https://youtu.be/qNDqwdFztKw
From boisterous school bus mates, a welcoming principal and school mascot to the savvy school librarian and gym, art, and music teachers, too, the children in Ready and Waiting for You meet the entire community of school. When at last they arrive in their classroom, the final lines read: “We won’t be a whole school till you do. Everyone’s waiting for you.”
The importance of extending friendship and fun to every single young child who crosses the threshold to school in Fall 2021 cannot be overestimated. To share an unambiguous message of belonging with each and every child must be the mission of every educator, administrator, and staff member.
Won’t you be a steadfast, caring ally and advocate for all the children in your care this fall? Be sure to let each child know, you’re ready and waiting for them!
Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). https://casel.org
Moreillon, Judi, 2013. Ready and Waiting for You. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.
Palmer, Parker J. 1998. The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life. New York: Wiley & Sons.
Stafford-Brizard, Brooke. 2021. “Supporting Teacher Well-being in a Time of Crisis.” Educational Leadership 78 (8): 84-86.
Turnaround for Children. https://turnaroundusa.org/
Used with Permission from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers